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Ballmer defends Vista’s honor to disgruntled Windows mom

I loved this story.

It recounts Steve Ballmer’s encounter with an irate Gartner analyst who is also a mom who installed Vista for her daughter. It seems she had a not-so-wonderful user experience.

Here’s what’s great about the contretemps.

First, say what you will, Ballmer puts himself on the firing line. Repeatedly and usually with good humor. He actually responds to questions. This is a great thing and something many of his peers don’t do. Here are some examples of  off-the-cuff Ballmerisms.

Second, it illustrates that Microsoft, big as it is, cannot chase every opportunity. While executives have maintained that the company’s division structure will let it excel (no pun intended) in client and server operating systems, applications, game hardware and software, cloud computing and what not, the Vista experience shows what happens when it takes its eye off the ball. (And also what happens–to reverse an oft-used Microsoft mantra–when it over promises and under delivers.)

It’s jack-of-all-trades strategy has hit it where it hurts: Microsoft’s reputation for client operating systems.

It also shows that despite all the PR and marketing glitz in the world, solution partners are canaries in the coal mine for such launches. They have long maintained that Vista wasn’t ready for prime time. Many  have good businesses continuing to sell Windows XP-based systems which are scarce at retail.

 Speaking as a resigned-but-not-happy Vista user, Microsoft needs to focus on what it really needs to do and filter out the noise. That means an operating system that works without forced reboots, that boots up and shuts down in less time than it takes to get a cup of coffee, and a browser that doesn’t hang.

Not that anyone asked.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at

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